tv The House on Murder Mountain MSNBC September 21, 2014 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT
for all of us at nbc news, thanks for joining us. ♪ has the jury reached a verdict? >> we, the jury, find the defendant -- they call it murder mountain. so many lives lost. so many of them young. >> he was the tow-headed kid that everybody loved. >> her brother was murdered here. his daughter. >> how can you take three lives? for what? >> police were certain they knew the answer to that question. certain they had their killer. case closed. >> absolutely. >> but then a strange thing happened, with the convicted killer locked away for life, the killing continued. >> he had told dan before he
would never leave that hill alive. >> the connection? one woman. the mysterious landlord of murder mountain. >> what do you now know about her that you didn't know? >> looks like she's not afraid to kill people. >> what really happened up on that hill? >> as the years go by, fills me with this rage. >> "the house on murder mountain." >> thanks for joining us. i am ann curry. many of us remember that spooky place in the neighborhood when we were kids, where we were too scared to go. but there is a place that even adults are spooked by because it has been the scene of one tragedy after another. the question is why. here's josh mankiewicz. >> high in the rolling hills of central oregon within sight of the state capitol, where the landscape is lined with endless acres of vineyards and miles of
christmas tree farms sits an estate. >> i know what evil is. i've seen evil. that place is evil. >> it's a place where many lives have ended in mysterious ways, and what happened here in the space of 30 minutes, more than a decade ago, is still unknown. >> there's got to be somebody out there that knows something that could take that doubt away. >> the story begins in the fall of 1998, just below that big house on the hill. a young man had just moved in to this mobile home. 26-year-old jason kinser had been hired to be the property's caretaker. his sisters, vicky and kathy. >> jason, he was the tow-headed kid that everybody loved. i mean, he always was smiling.
>> made you laugh. biggest smile. >> and living there with jason kinser, his fiancee, susan osbourne, who was saving money to attend a school to care for tigers and other large jungle cats. susan's father, thomas osbourne. >> she was going to take care of the house, i guess. and he was going to do odd jobs. >> you liked him? you approved of him? >> jason was like a son. everybody liked jason. >> but on the afternoon of november 23rd, 1998, osbourne's phone rang. on the other end was a woman whom he would later learn was the owner of that big house on the hill. a woman named bimla boyd. >> bimla boyd was screaming "they're dead! somebody shot them!" >> did you know who bimla boyd was at that point? >> not at all. no. >> how did she have your phone number? >> i don't know.
it was about two hours later, a detective came to the house and told us what had happened. >> what that woman, the estate owner, had said was sadly true. inside the mobile home, jason kinser lay dead on his kitchen floor. under the trailer, the bodies of susan osbourne and of a friend, 25-year-old celesta graves. investigators believe kinser was killed first and the women were then chased, cornered and executed. their killer working methodically to make sure he or she did not leave witnesses behind. >> i always think about those two girls underneath that trailer. and that's just wrong. and i think about my brother laying on the floor, thinking through his mind, gosh, did i deserve this? you know, what was he thinking?
how could i have let it come to this? they didn't deserve that. they didn't deserve that. >> even today, you know, i can still see my wife sitting across the table and just -- she's completely unglued. >> what did you think had happened out there? >> somebody went nuts and killed three kids. why? don't know. >> investigators for the polk county sheriff's office had little to go on. a few spent shell casings near the bodies, but no murder weapon or weapons believed to be .22 caliber pistols, and no witnesses beyond the estate owner, bimla boyd. she told detectives that at about 3:45 that afternoon, she had looked out her window and seen smoke coming from the mobile home below. when she had driven down the hill, she said, she had put out a fire inside the trailer, a fire apparently set near the wood stove to consume the evidence of the killings.
she found the bodies and at 3:57 p.m., she called 911. despite the lack of evidence, investigators soon discovered information they thought might help identify the killer. jason kinser, the kid with the smile who was loved by everyone, turned out to be a small-time drug dealer with, police said, plans of making it to the big time. he had two previous drug convictions and a new arrest just weeks before the murder. more importantly, kinser had been involved in a number of drug deals that went wrong, leading, police said, to threats against jason kinser's life. >> there were people who told jason at the time this is dangerous. >> at the time of the murders, eric mason was an investigative reporter for a tv station in portland. three people were killed that day. >> right. >> but police thought at the time that jason kinser was the primary victim. the two women were killed because they were witnesses. >> that's right. so i think when you start
running through this list of names, bushwhacker, duct tape mike, nazi red -- >> these are all drug dealers who are angry at jason kinser? >> these are all people with stated motive to kill jason kinser. and you have to ask yourself if one of those threats someone made good on. >> and at least one more of the victims had recently faced drug charges. celesta graves had been arrested for possession and then released from jail just days before her murder. her sister, jennifer. >> she was a loving, caring person with a good soul. >> what was she up to when you last talked to her? >> hanging out with the wrong people, doing the wrong things. >> for susan osbourne's family as well, the fact that drugs may have played a role in her murder is part of a much larger mystery. >> and your daughter never mentioned anything to do with drugs or anybody even being
angry at jason or jason having any enemies? >> she told irene one time while they were sitting in the kitchen talking, which they did quite often, that she was scared, okay? i don't know why. now, she might have told her mom why, but she never told me. >> although an arrest would soon come, it would also be clear to the families and to that reporter that there was evil yet to be revealed here on murder mountain. coming up -- secrets revealed about the mysterious landlord of murder mountain. >> she was the person who told police there isn't anybody that comes and goes off the property that i don't know about. >> but was she telling the truth? is is kathleen. when "house on murder mountain" continues. afternoon arrives and feeling good, but her knee pain returns... that's two more pills.
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on a 30-acre oregon estate in november 1998, the bodies of three murder victims, celesta graves, susan osbourne and jason kinser, were found in and underneath this mobile home. stories of drug dealing and death threats swirled around the scene. detectives believed jason to be the target. susan and celesta were simply heart-rending collateral damage. susan's father, tom osbourne. >> why? why did something like this happen? how can you take three lives? for what? what could make you so mad, so upset to take three lives of young people like that? >> and then just a little more than 24 hours after the bodies were found, polk county sheriff's investigators thought they had an answer and they would make an arrest.
the suspect, 32-year-old scott cannon, a plumber who on the day of the murders was at the trailer providing an estimate for repairs. the father of one young son with another on the way. but he was also a pot and meth user. and his motive, investigators believed, was a drug deal that went sideways. >> they had a guy who was on drugs. he was in the meth world. >> former investigative reporter eric mason. >> he looked like a good suspect. he knew drug dealers. he liked weapons. and when police showed up and started looking around his garage, what was in his garage looked pretty good to them. >> what police found was an extensive gun collection. no murder weapon, but hundreds of rounds of bullets and these, homemade silencers. it was circumstantial, but it was enough. scott cannon was charged with three murders. if convicted, facing the death
penalty. when his trial began here at the polk county, oregon, courthouse in january of 2000, the heart of the prosecution's case was the theory that scott caan cannon we only person at the scene who could have committed the crime. two witnesses who, it turns out, were making a drug delivery that day, testified that as they arrived shortly after 3:30 p.m., cannon met them outside the mobile home and acted strangely, discouraged the two from going inside and then followed them off the property in his van. then the prosecution's star witness sealed the deal. remember the estate owner, bimla boyd? she said that right after cannon's van left, she saw smoke coming from the trailer. she had gone down, put out the fire, discovered jason kinser's body and then at 3:57, dialed 911. >> she was the person who told police there isn't anybody that
comes and goes off the property that i don't know about. so, when he sees the van, she tells police, and that eventually led to scott cannon. >> finally, prosecutors had high caliber science linking cannon to the murder. it seemed as fool-proof as dna. an expert in methodology called comparative bullet lead analysis told jurors that bullets found in scott's garage were chemically indistinguishable from lead found in the slugs found in the murder victims. the chance that they didn't match was one in 64 million. >> the bullet lead analysis showed the match of the lead found at the scene with the lead found at his house in a box. >> case closed. >> absolutely. >> scott cannon was in disbelief.
no murder weapon, no eyewitnesses, but there he was, a self-described recreational drug user on trial for his life. when it came time for his defense, he simply said that all the people in the mobile home had been alive when he finished his work that day. he described a hispanic looking man who he said had been at the trailer and who might have been the real killer. the prosecution's case was almost entirely circumstantial. but before scott knew it, the jury was back with word on his fate. what did you think when you heard the word guilty? >> i was satisfied. i felt that justice had been done. >> scott cannon avoided the death penalty. what he got was life in prison without parole. >> i always felt that for those three kids, the person that had committed the murders was at least suffering not as much as they did, but at least suffering enough by being kept away from his family and his life. >> there was no doubt, jurors
believed scott cannon was a merciless killer. but what remained a mystery was his motive. prosecutors never offered any real explanation for the crime and the families were left to wonder. is it hard to not really understand what happened? >> that's probably the hardest part. it's like you can send your son off to war and he gets killed in war and you know why. you can drive down the road and a drunk driver can kill your child, and you know why. but for these three kids, they weren't doing anything and it was for what? >> the trial was over. the case closed. but the story wasn't over. it would soon become clear that those three deaths on this property were just the sging beginning, as the killing continued on murder mountain.
coming up -- this time the killer was bimla boyd, the estate owner, and a key witness against scott cannon. >> what do you now know about bimla boyd you didn't know at your trial? >> looks like she's not afraid to kill people. >> when "the house on murder mountain" continues. really? alka-seltzer plus night rushes relief to eight symptoms of a full blown cold including your stuffy nose. (breath of relief) oh, what a relief it is. thanks. anytime. right here. with a control pad that can read your handwriting, a wide-screen multimedia center, and a head-up display for enhanced driver focus. all inside a newly redesigned cabin of unrivaled style and comfort. ♪ the all-new c-class. at the very touch point of performance and innovation. ♪ ugh. heartburn. did someone say burn?
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nearly four years after the murders on this mountain outside salem, oregon, scott cannon was serving three consecutive sentences of life without parole at the state penitentiary when again, gunfire erupted on this property and another man lay dead. the victim? again, a caretaker who lived in that very same trailer where the three were gunned down below that big house on the hill. the suspect? this time, the estate owner herself, bimla boyd. what do all these deaths have in common?
well, the owner, bimla boyd. that local investigative reporter, eric mason, was now covering a new murder case, the case of bimla boyd. >> all of a sudden, at 5909 orchard heights road, the same address, there's this shooting. >> that is correct, your honor. it's my understanding she's been arraigned. >> bimla boyd had gone from witness in one murder to suspect in another. who was bimla boyd and what was the story behind this latest killing on the estate? the reporter began digging. here's what he found. bimla boyd was then 46 years old, born in fiji, a single mother of three who had come to america two decades before. a devout jehovah's witness who was three times divorced. after the murders in 1998, boyd had hired a new caretaker, dan spencer. he had moved into the same mobile home where the killings had occurred.
family members say boyd and spencer soon became more than friends, but boyd family and neighbors say threatened spencer when he said he wanted to leave. here's what one neighbor had to say. >> she had told dan before that he would never leave that hill alive. >> and dan spencer did not. bimla boyd admitted shooting spencer, but claimed she had caught him sexually abusing her teenaged daughter. in the end, boyd cut a deal, pleading guilty to manslaughter, and agreeing to serve nearly seven years in prison. and in a prison just ten miles away from the scene of the murders, the news of bimla boyd's conviction was more than surprising. >> my cellie came down there and said hey, man, you're on the news. i said, yeah, what's up? he said, well, that gal that testified against you killed somebody. >> this is scott cannon.
you can imagine his surprise when he heard the news that the woman who had been the star witness against him was now a convicted killer herself. what do you now know about bimla boyd that you didn't know at your trial? >> looks like she's not afraid to kill people. >> but would the latest death on what became known as murder mountain make any difference in cannon's case? when we met him in april 2009, he had been behind bars for more than a decade, losing every appeal he had ever filed, and he was still claiming that he did not kill jason kinser, susan osbourne and celesta graves. >> what do you most want people to know? >> wrong guy's in prison. >> are you a killer? >> i'm not a killer. >> it's hard to say that, isn't it? >> it's easy to say i'm not a killer. it's hard to be asked it over and over and over. it's easy to answer it. but it falls on deaf ears a lot. >> the families of the victims
all tell us that they believe in their hearts that the right guy is in prison. that you did it. what do you want to say to them? >> i disagree. i can understand why they want to believe that and why they do believe that. it probably makes them feel better. but you know, it's not so. >> and while cannon had been languishing in the state pen, his family had stood by him. his girlfriend sarah, the mother of his two children. >> scott says he told you to move on. >> yeah. i don't want to move on. i want scott. i want him home. >> saul matthias was nearly 9 when he saw his father arrested at gunpoint. >> as the years go by, it fills me with this rage that penetrates nearly every single, you know, factor of my life. there's an injustice that
happened here. >> scott cannon's version of the events of that deadly day has never changed. he said that when he went out to the trailer to make some estimates on plumbing repairs, he saw that unidentified hispanic looking man inside the trailer and heard him arguing with another man, presumably jason kinser. cannon says he told one of the women what repairs were needed, and then he says susan osbourne said the words that still haunt him. >> susan came out and said maybe you better go, and i could hear arguing inside when she came out. i have no doubt in my mind she saved my life. >> when you left the trailer, was everyone there still alive? >> best of my knowledge, they were. sure. i hadn't heard shots. i could still hear bumping and thumping on the inside, raising of voices. it sounded like two men. >> so cannon says he turned to leave the mobile home. the time, shortly after 3:30 p.m., he says, about the time those two men who were making a
drug delivery arrived. remember, they testified that cannon met them outside the trailer, acting strangely, discouraged him from going inside, then followed him off the property in his van. >> the implication being the reason you didn't want them to go inside was that you already killed everyone in the trailer. >> that seems to be the state's theory, yeah. i basically gave them their alibi. i said they left before i did. that alone puts them in the clear. >> cannon did that, he says, because he thought there was trouble inside, not because he was trying to hide something. but if neither scott cannon nor the drug delivery men committed the murders, then who did? the arrest and conviction of bimla boyd raised suspicions with that local investigative reporter. after all, if boyd could kill a man in cold blood, was she really the reliable witness she had seemed to be? when she took the stand against scott cannon?
at trial, she seemed to be just a witness who was telling the truth, doing her duty. >> i think if everyone in 2000 could have had a crystal ball and said you know, later on, bimla boyd is going to take an sks assault rifle and shoot the next person that lived in the trailer, i think there might have been a different level of trust in her testimony, certainly. >> but the reporter was about to take on a new role and uncover new evidence about bimla boyd on the day of the murders, and maybe even learn the identity of that mystery man from inside the mobile home. coming up, a young man who seemed to know a lot about what happened in that trailer. >> he told his girlfriend you should have seen the look on those girls' faces when they were shot. >> suggesting pretty clearly that he was there. >> absolutely. is is kathleen. setting up the perfect wedding day >> when "house on murder mountain" continues.
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i'm milissa rehberger. one woman is dead after a bus crash in delaware. nearly 50 others were injured, at least 3 critically. police in pennsylvania say they found one of two rifles they believe belong to eric frein, who is still at large and is suspected of killing a state trooper nine days ago. and gas prices have dropped another 9 cents in the last two weeks. the latest lundberg survey says regular unleaded is now $3.37 a gallon on average. now back to our show. what do all these deaths have in common? well, the owner, bimla boyd. in 2005, eric mason left tv news for a new line of work. the investigative reporter became a private investigator. and in 2008, the newly minted private eye walked into the oregon state penitentiary, where
at the visitors' desk, he recognized an inmate named scott cannon. >> he said, you know, i tried to find you. i've been looking for you. i knew you were a good investigator. would you take on my case? and i said, absolutely. i didn't hesitate at all. >> you covered the story as a journalist. >> correct. >> now you're investigating as a private eye. >> mm-hmm. >> is scott cannon the killer? >> i don't think so. i have confidence that scott cannon did not do this crime. >> mason joined forces with mark geiger, an attorney in charge of cannon's appeal. >> i think when you look at the evidence, it becomes almost one of those cases in which you can't imagine how he could have done it because there are so many other people who could have done it. >> and yet, he was charged and convicted. >> that's correct. >> because what, the state has some vendetta against him? >> it appears to me that they locked on to mr. cannon and just wouldn't let go. and they just ignored other evidence that was just very overwhelming pointing to a whole
cast of other characters. >> but if scott cannon didn't kill the three victims, then who did? that unknown hispanic looking man whom cannon claimed was inside the mobile home? estate owner turned convicted killer bimla boyd? or someone else? >> and no one would listen. >> first, mason, the reporter turned private eye, revisit@the scene of the murder. he found this woman. she lives at the bottom of the road leading to the house on the hill. >> we were standing at the bottom of the hill down here. >> irene morrow told the private eye that on the day of the murders in 1998, bimla boyd did not stay on the property the entire afternoon as boyd had told detectives. at one point, she drove down the driveway in such a hurry that she almost ran over morrow's husband, who had gone out to get the mail. >> when she saw us, she was visibly shaken. i mean, she didn't expect to see anybody, and she took off real fast. i mean, real fast.
i was standing right here when she came home and it was almost as fast. >> the time? the witness says about 3:55 p.m. now remember, just two minutes later, bimla boyd was on the phone to 911, reporting the murders at 3:57 p.m. what do you think bimla boyd was doing when irene morrow saw her leave the property before 4:00 and then come back before she made that 911 call? >> i don't know, but i think it certainly would have impeached her testimony about the events of that day. and had you been able to impeach bimla boyd in 1998, scott cannon i don't think would be sitting in prison right now. >> and there's one more thing that doesn't add up. bimla boyd told the 911 operator that when she found jason kinser, he was alive and gasping for air. the problem with that is that the autopsy found kinser lived less than a minute after being shot. so bimla boyd almost certainly
had to be present when that fatal shot was fired. >> she either saw it or she took part in the shooting. because you can't be there that close thereto and not see something. >> and boyd apparently did see something. the evidence? this letter obtained by "dateline" in bimla boyd's own handwriting. according to her own family and a handwriting expert. written five years after the murders. the letter reads "i was an eyewitness to a triple homicide at gunpoint, a drug deal went wrong, and i happened to be the only one to witness the whole ordeal." to cannon's defense team, bimla boyd, a convicted killer herself, should now be viewed as a viable suspect in these three homicides as well, but she was not the only one. because as they began trying to identify the hispanic looking man whom cannon had always
claimed was at the mobile home the day of the murders, look what they found in the dusty court file, a photo array or throwdown, as it's called, made by polk county detectives in the hours after the murder, like a police lineup with photos. in it, only dark-haired hispanic looking men. mason, the reporter turned private eye, took the photo array to prison and showed it to convicted killer scott cannon. >> ten years after this crime, i walk into the oregon state penitentiary, and i said, if the person that was there at the trailer that day that you saw is in this throwdown, i want you to point at him, and he pointed at tom mcmahon without hesitation. >> thomas mcmahon isn't actually hispanic, but you can see how someone might mistake it. at the time, he was well known in the drug world and he knew murder victim jason kinser. did that unidentified hispanic looking man finally have a name? >> it clicked.
yeah. >> you told police in 1998 that there was a hispanic guy in the trailer when you got there. >> yeah. >> you didn't see a picture of mcmahon until 2009? >> yeah. >> and that was the guy? >> yeah. >> but how had polk county sheriff's detectives known to put tom mcmahon's picture in a photo array to begin with? it turns out when murder victim jason kinser had been arrested for selling methamphetamines six weeks before he was killed, guess who was arrested along with him? tom mcmahon. the p.i. also learned about a phone call mcmahon made right after the murders. >> he called his girlfriend in the hours after the shooting and told her details that no one else could have known. he told his girlfriend, you should have seen the look on those girls' faces when they were shot. >> suggesting pretty clearly
that he was there? >> absolutely. >> a story backed up by this affidavit from the girlfriend, who said at the time of the murders mcmahon's behavior became increasingly erratic and paranoid, and by a one-time cellmate, who says mcmahon told him he had shot the three execution style. that cellmate told polk county investigators about mcmahon's admission and they wrote this report in 1999, before scott cannon ever went to trial. >> that report was never discovered to the defense team, which is a huge constitutional issue. >> but police heard about it. >> yeah. this we got it from a police report. >> it's hard to believe the police would not disclose someone else essentially admitting to the shootings. >> it is. >> but for some mysterious reason, tom mcmahon was never pursued further as a murder suspect or called as a witness at cannon's trial. "dateline" tried to find out why but the polk county sheriff and district attorney declined to
answer any of our questions regarding mcmahon. >> no one can prove why tom mcmahon ended up just sort of falling off the end of the earth there. >> but police knew about him. >> absolutely. >> with new suspects, new witnesses, new evidence and information, scott cannon was about to get an extraordinary chance for a new trial, for the freedom that he says should belong to him. coming up -- would scott cannon get that chance? not everyone thought he should. >> you think the right man's in jail? >> yes. >> when "the house on murder mountain" continues. really? alka-seltzer plus night rushes relief to eight symptoms of a full blown cold including your stuffy nose. (breath of relief) oh, what a relief it is. thanks. anytime. machines will be sprayed to be made. and making something stronger...
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the marion county courthouse, salem, oregon, summer, 2009. scott cannon in prison for nearly 11 years for a triple murder, had a court date, a hearing on all the points raised in his appeal, a hearing that could end with him getting a new trial or being sent back to prison for life. do you think you'll ever get out of here? >> i'm confident i'm going to get out of here. i really am. too many things have happened to go my way at this point to slow it up. >> you think scott cannon's going to walk out of prison a free man like this is some kind of movie? >> i do. i don't even think we're going to have a trial. i think this case is that good. >> but cannon's son mathias who had grown from a boy of 9 who witnessed his father's arrest into a teenager filled with rage wasn't so sure. >> you get kind of jaded to things, i guess, after awhile. i'll believe it when i see it.
but you know, that sounds good, you know. i'm just cautious optimism, i guess. >> family members of the three murder victims were in disbelief that they would soon find themselves back in a courtroom more than a decade after the killings which they thought had been solved. you think the right man's in jail? >> yeah. but apparently, there's people who don't think that way, so it's a wait-and-see thing. >> you don't believe it? >> no. >> but cannon's defense team believed they had the evidence. they found new witnesses pointing to new suspects. there were now serious questions about the story told by the key prosecution witness, bimla boyd, who was later convicted of manslaughter for gunning down and killing another man on that very same property. and then there was what prosecutors had called the scientific evidence proving, they said, that scott cannon was the killer.
remember, the jury in cannon's trial heard from an expert in comparative bullet lead analysis. the expert testified that the chances of the bullets in cannon's garage containing the same lead as the bullets found in the victims' bodies was one in 64 million, as good as dna or so it seemed back then. the problem now is that comparative bullet lead analysis has been completely discredited by none other than the fbi. >> the fbi declared that they were not going to use comparative bullet lead analysis anymore because it's bad evidence, junk science, essentially. >> suddenly, the weight of evidence in the case was shifting in favor of scott cannon's innocence. and just before cannon's hearing was scheduled to be held, oregon's attorney general threw in the towel, agreeing that cannon deserved a new trial. scott cannon's attorney and investigator delivered the news and the paperwork to cannon at
the penitentiary. but while the defense team celebrated, what the victims' families had feared was now coming true. >> just totally screwed up. you rely on justice in our cops and all that and what went wrong here? on one hand i want to feel, you know, happy for scott because if he's not supposed to be in there, he's not supposed to be in there. but we've got 11 years now, we've got to start all over and we don't even know if anybody's going to help us. >> somebody knows something. there's got to be something that points to somebody, to something. it's been so many years ago, is it going to be actively pursued? now that all this time has gone by and we've got an open investigation again. we're the families and we care about what happened. is anybody else going to care now? >> oregon's attorney general declined "dateline's" request for an on-camera interview about
the decision. and on september 1st, 2009, a judge signed the order vacating scott cannon's conviction. he was not yet free. prosecutors were still convinced he was a triple murderer. they intended to take him back to trial. but the scott cannon story had one more giant twist that was still to come. coming up -- the families of the victims get a phone call they will never forget. >> made me sick. truly made me sick. >> when "the house on murder mountain" continues. n a day or 2 aleve for all day relief. honey, you did it! baby laughs! i have a cold. i took nyquil but i'm still stuffed up. nyquil cold and flu liquid gels don't unstuff your nose. really? alka-seltzer plus night
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nearly a decade before, he had been tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. but when he returned to a courtroom, it was clear that authorities in polk county were intent on trying him once again on those three murder counts. it appeared cannon could sit in the county jail for months, maybe years, waiting for that new trial. but the defense wondered, so much had changed over the past decade, what evidence could prosecutors even use at trial this time? >> i just don't think you have anything that puts scott cannon at the scene anymore. >> after all, the comparative bullet lead analysis the jury found so compelling in the first trial was no longer considered reliable. the prosecution's chief witness was now a convicted killer herself, which could make her less credible to a jury.
and the defense had turned up new witnesses pointing to plausible new suspects, like tom mcmahon, the suspected drug dealing partner of murder victim jason kinser. his picture had turned up in a police photo array just hours after the murder. and at least two witnesses now said mcmahon had admitted to the killings. >> so mark and i go in front of the district attorney of polk county and for a couple of hours make the case that they shouldn't prosecute scott cannon over again. the problem is, he couldn't see everything we saw. he couldn't go back and talk to the witnesses we talked to. there was, for him, i think a lack of tribal knowledge. he hadn't been there when the prosecution happened, all he knew was this was back on his plate. >> did you think they had something else you didn't know about? >> we turned over every rock, so we couldn't imagine what it would be. but you start to think, is there something we don't know about, did we miss something? >> it turns out it wasn't the
defense that missed something. as prosecutors announced they were reviewing boxes of physical evidence left over from the first trial, there was a bombshell waiting to hit the headlines. after new cannon's new trial was ordered, the victims' families received phone calls from prosecutors, calls they will not forget. >> it hit you, it was a blow. it was like, oh, no, where do we go from here? >> like reliving the whole thing all over again. like, when there was a conviction, it was, like, okay, there is somewhat closure to the whole ordeal. now everything is just like ripped right up again and we're starting all over again and it is, like, this process just started a week ago. >> made me sick. truly made me sick. >> what sickened the families and caught nearly everyone by surprise was this, prosecutors
had discovered that key exhibits were gone. vital physical evidence had been lost or maybe even destroyed, perhaps as far back as 2005. exactly why, like so much else in this case, remains a mystery. but there is no mystery about this. without that new evidence, there could be no new trial. and just before christmas 2009, more than 11 years after scott cannon's arrest, would come a scene that few outside his family and staunchest supporters thought they would ever witness. >> look at you. >> scott was a free man. >> congratulations. >> crazy. >> what is it like to be free? >> it's pretty good. >> waiting there, his son, who had seen his father arrested at gunpoint, and he was now at age
20, a man himself. >> this is going to be a new experience. >> and the defense attorney and that reporter, turned private eye, who in cannon's mind had made all the difference. >> i knew you didn't do it, man. >> let's go home. >> the car's this way, buddy. >> after having your life taken away from you to have it drop back in your lap it's, wow -- it's -- i don't want to be cliche but you stop and small the flowers and they smell good. >> the cup's half full. >> the cup is definitely half full. it's overflowing. i wasted a lot of time thinking about the stuff i don't have and now i have a lot. i wake up and there's a dog and a cat and the gal that i love and my two children are right there. i don't have to look forward to visiting day. every day is visiting day all day long. >> you're a remarkably for giving guy.
>> i was angry. i was hateful for a long time. that's what made my hair gray and the wrinkles. it physically eats you up in time. why waste time on that. >> you seem like you are in a much better place than the last time we talked. >> i'm getting there. yeah. the whole reality of it you know, hasn't quite sunk in for whatever reason. you know, i'm on dream street. >> you know, the headline on the story put forward by prosecutors is guilty man gets away with murder because we accidentally lost the evidence. >> that's a nice spin on it but the reality is my conviction was overturned based on faulty evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. i had to have my conviction overturned before i got to the point where they said, oops, we lost the evidence. >> but you can imagine the emotions on the other side, the families of the victims. >> i'm sorry, something's wrong
there. something's definitely wrong. the attorney general, where is he? why isn't he investigating this? >> i don't have the answer to that because the attorney general wouldn't talk to us. >> that's why i say there's no answers. none whatsoever. >> you know that no matter how this goes that right now, somebody's getting away with murder. >> yep. had to be somebody that was on that mountain. >> so the story ends with many wondering what now? polk county authorities who refused our requests for interviews say the triple murder is once again an open investigation. the office of oregon's attorney general, to this day, asserts that cannon is the killer. >> the defendant is still the main and the only suspect in the murders of these three people.
>> bimla boyd is out of prison after serving nearly seven years on manslaughter. she did not respond to our repeated requests for an interview. in 2012, she returned to prison after being convicted of multiple offenses, unrelated to the 1998 murders. tom mcmahon denied our request for an interview. he's been released from the texas prison after serving time for multiple drug charges. scott cannon is now living outside of prison cell with his family, for the first time since 1998. the same system that put him in a cage has now set him free. >> had a life taken away. and had to get it back. indescribable. >> and there's more about this story on our website at dateline.msnbc.com.
that's all for now. i'm ann curry. for all of us here at nbc news, thanks for joining us. a young dad, his wife and little boy enjoying a day out on top of the world. then tragedy. >> he told me they were out on the cliff and when they turned around to look, they were both gone. >> he was 23, now a widower and everyone in town shared his grief. well, almost everyone. >> i wrestled with it for a while. i did. i looked horrible. >> investigators had something to wrestle with. >> it would be a good way to commit homicide. >> questions, but no proof. and no one knew of an eerie secret conversation between